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Seagate Barracuda 18LP ST318275LW

  May 18, 1999 Author: Eugene Ra  
Evaluation unit provided by Dirt Cheap Drives

Introduced eons ago in computer terms, the original Seagate Barracuda was the first drive to feature a spindle speed of 7200rpm. Since then, each succeeding generation has delivered premium performance with the knowledge that one was buying into proven, time-tested line. Last years Barracuda 9LP was no exception, delivering performance almost equal to the industry-leading IBM Ultrastar 9LP.

This year we've witnessed the two behemoths of the storage landscape, Seagate and IBM, consolidate their SCSI disk lineups from a three-tier to a two-tier system. Last year, for example, IBM presented the Ultrastar 9ES series as an entry-level, the Ultrastar 9LP in the midrange, and its blazing 9ZX targeting the high-end. Similarly, Seagate offered the Medalist Pro SCSI (ugh) as an entry-level drive, the Barracuda 9LP as the mainstream enterprise-class drive, and the enviable Cheetah 9LP to anchor the premium-performance market. IBM has dropped the "P" series, effectively positioning the Ultrastar 18ES as both an entry-level and enterprise-class drive. Seagate has done the same: the Medalist Pro SCSI has thankfully been retired, leaving only the 18.2 gigabyte Barracuda 18LP to stand as Seagate's sole 7200rpm offering.

Like the Ultrastar 18ES, the Barracuda 18LP is a five platter, 3.6 GB/platter design, placing its areal density one notch higher than the Western Digital Enteprise 18300. It's seek time is a lean 6.9 milliseconds, a hair faster than the last generation's 7.1ms figure. The drive features a one megabyte buffer-- a little on the light side when compared to the competition. Even some premiere ATA drives feature 2 megs these days. A 5-year warranty backs the drive.

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The Barracuda 18LP's 3.6 gigs per platter begs comparison with the IBM Ultrastar 18ES. From performance testing already conducted here at StorageReview.com, however, it's clear that the comparison should be performed against today's premiere 7200rpm SCSI drive: the Western Digital Enterprise WDE18300. Windows 95 tests yield neck-and-neck performance. The Business Disk WinMark 99 places the Seagate in the lead over the WD by an unnoticeable 1%. The High-End Disk WinMark reverses the situation, the Barracuda trailing by a negligible 1%. Testing in Windows NT, however, reveals a larger difference in performance between the two units. Here the Seagate drive trails the Western Digital by 9% in the Business Disk WinMark and a fairly substantial 13% in High-End tests.

Adaptec's ThreadMark tests in both Windows 95 and Windows NT mirrored the 13% difference suggested by the Windows NT High-End WinMark. Here the Barracuda trailed the Enterprise by margins of 13%-14%.

Backtracking a bit, comparisons with the IBM Ultrastar 18ES yield closer margins, but in most cases still have the Barracuda trailing. The IBM leads by 2%-3% under Windows 9x WinMarks and by 6%-8% in Windows NT.

The two previous-generation Barracudas tested here at StorageReview.com were leaders when it came to noise and heat-- that is to say, they were loud and hot. This latest Barracuda manages to tone down here. In particular, seek noises are greatly improved, the drive rumbling through searches with a bit less noise. Subjectively, the drive operates cooler than the older 9LP series, though still a bit warm outside of a drive cooler. At any rate, the Barracuda is unfortunately warmer and noisier than either of its competitors.

While the lowering in heat and noise ceilings are commendable, I have to admit to being disappointed that the venerable Barracuda line was unable to displace the WD Enterprise as the premiere 7200rpm SCSI disk. In perspective, however, if the Enterprise didn't exist, the situation thus far in the enterprise-class drive arena would almost mirror last year's results: IBM's drive leading in most categories with Seagate paving a close second. WD's drive does exist, however, and delivers performance exceeding that of the two incumbents'. The Barracuda line features a long, proud, and proven lineage, but the drive to get today when it comes to performance, noise, or heat is still the WD Enterprise 18300.

Seagate Barracuda 18LP ST318275LW
Estimated Price: $799
Also Available: ST39175LW (9.1 GB version); ST136475 (36.4 GB version)
Specifications
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* Note: Threadmark 2.0 and WinBench98 test results are the average of five trials.
WinBench99 test results are the average of three trials.


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